An agricultural engineer by training, Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste is head of the Haitian Directorate of Civil Protection, a crucial institution in a nation that faces all too frequent hurricanes and was struck by a devastating earthquake in 2010. In charge since 2003, he has earned wide respect for her tireless work to help her vulnerable country better prepare for emergency situations and integrate risk reduction into policies and development programmes.
On Ms. Jean-Baptiste’s watch, the National Disaster Risk Management System has gone from strength to strength, resulting in regional coverage of the country by civil protection structures, the popularisation of alert and evacuation systems with key participants and the population, and increased coordination between the various players in risk and disaster management. Bolstering operational capacities and community involvement has been key to this. All the country's departments and communes now have civil protection teams that have received specialised training, thanks to the support of a number of partners. Jean-Baptiste has worked to ensure that the risk management system is itself resilient, and has increased coordination between the various players, through the creation of a forum of non-government organisations, which ensures greater synergy between humanitarian actions and risk and disaster management in the stricter sense. Her directorate’s strategy has also tapped Haiti’s youth, the country’s main resource, by developing a risk culture among young people in schools and universities. Young people are also deployed as information relays into the wider community, helping reach the most vulnerable, and acting directly as volunteers in disaster preparation and response. Jeqn-Baptiste’s philosophy is that young people are not just simple receivers of information but the authors of their own resilience. She is also striving to make the National Disaster Risk Management System more inclusive and better able to face challenges such as climate change or growing inequalities.
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